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Mariano and a brief history of ‘average players’ taking iconic numbers at Real Madrid

Mariano taking Real Madrid's no.7 shirt caused outrage among fans

Let’s immediately address the elephant in the room.

None of these players are ‘average’ as you don’t represent Real Madrid unless you’re a footballer with more talent in your little toenail than 99.99% of the general population.

But, in the context of Madrid, a club synonymous with winning gloriously, these players fall under the ‘average’ category. Now we’ve got that out the way, let’s dive in.

‘Who you callin’ average?’

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‘Who you callin’ average?’

Mariano inheriting Cristiano Ronaldo’s no.7 shirt should be taken as an encouraging sign the former Lyon striker is really backing himself.

But Madrid fans aren’t happy. The no.7 blessed the back of Madrid legends Raul and Emilio Butragueno, so it’s taken on a near-mythical presence at the Bernabeu.

It’s a bit harsh, given Mariano is yet to kick a ball since returning to the club. But he wouldn’t be the first, ahem, ‘average’ player to inherit an iconic Madrid number.

Roberto Soldado and Javier Saviola (No.9)

Replacing Ronaldo (O Fenomeno) was always going to be a tough ask for Madrid, and so it proved when Roberto Soldado took the no.9 shirt in the first R9-less season.

The Spaniard gave Spurs fans an early look at what was to come when he failed to score in eight appearances during the 2007/08 season.

Soldado was relieved of his duties the following campaign and replaced by Javier Saviola, once of the Barcelona parish, who only performed marginally better, scoring two goals in 12 appearances.

Luckily Raul, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Gonzalo Higuain were on hand to ensure the goals continued to flow.

A certain CR7, or CR9, rocked up in 2009 to give the no.9 shirt a new lease of life before Karim Benzema began an eight-year love affair with the shirt which continues to this very day.

The GOAT and Raul

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The GOAT and Raul

Lassana Dirarra (No.10)

Robert Prosinecki, Michael Laudrup, Clarence Seedorf, Luis Figo. Some of the finest playmakers to grace the game, all of whom have worn Madrid’s no.10 shirt at one time or another.

Lassana Diarra doesn’t fall into the first category, although he still gets the yearly Madrid no.10 newsletter, as written by Wesley Sneijder.

Diarra became the first player to swap Portsmouth for Madrid in 2009, initially wearing the no.6 shirt due to Mahamadou Diarra’s injury troubles.

Sneijder’s exit at the start of the following season opened up the no.10 shirt for Diarra until Mesut Ozil joined in 2011 and insisted on being the main man.

By the time Diarra’s Madrid career was over he’d worn no.6, no.10, no.24 and no.39. No wonder the kit men had a party the day he left.

Call me Lass

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Call me Lass

Emmanuel Adebayor (No.6)

You can’t spell ‘maverick’ without Emmanuel Adebayor.

So there was no surprise when he followed in the footsteps of defensive midfielder Fernando Redondo and centre-back Fernando Hierro by wearing Madrid’s no.6 shirt.

Maybe it was an inversion of the no.9. Maybe it was a nod to Ivan Helguera.

It proved to be a lucky charm as Adebayor picked up a Copa del Rey medal at the end of the season, which is his only piece of silverware to date.

Tekashi

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Tekashi

Nuri Sahin (No.5)

Nuri Sahin’s move to Madrid in 2011 made complete sense at the time.

He’d just guided Borussia Dortmund to a Bundesliga title, being named the Player of the Season in the process.

It wasn’t his fault that the no.5 shirt was still stained with Zinedine Zidane’s BDE.

But after one injury-hit season and four La Liga appearances Sahin’s Madrid career was over, via an equally disastrous spell at Liverpool.

Cheer up, Mesut

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Cheer up, Mesut

*BONUS BALL* Bodo Illgner (No.1) *BONUS BALL*

Here’s a quiz question which is sure to lose you mates at the pub, purely because they’ll think you’re a boring bastard.

Who was the last Madrid goalkeeper to wear the no.1 shirt before Iker Casillas?

Answer: Bodo Illgner. The German international spent four seasons at Madrid, battling Santiago Canizares and then Casillas for the gloves.

He was far from average, and was included in Marca’s ‘best foreign XI in Real Madrid history’, but Casillas’ achievement, coupled with the fact he retired from international duty aged 27, mean he’s not a household name outside of Spain and Germany.

Either that or we need to brush up on our trivia knowledge.

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